We have never lived in a more exciting time for impact. There has never been more desperate need and we are more equipped than ever before to tackle today’s biggest problems through imagination, creativity, collaboration and technology. The rise of social impact brands are changing the landscape of business as consumer demands change for brands who put purpose before profit and align with the values and issues that matter most to them. The Edelman Trust Barometer reports that “80% of consumers agree that a business must play a role in addressing societal issues; they want a company to take actions which increase profits, improve social conditions, and make the world a better place. (Forbes, 2020).
Motivations aside, everywhere you look, new brands are incorporating impact into their products and businesses. From coffee to lipstick. The truth is this, it’s simply not desirable or acceptable to exist in this world today for me, myself and I only. Like humanity, isolation and selfish actions are headed in one direction – extinction.
Though in a world of ever growing need and bombardment of information, sometimes it can all feel a little too much. Compassion fatigue is real but we must not cause it to desensitize us or fall asleep at the wheel. Let not everything overwhelm you. But be overwhelmed by one thing.
So where do you start? Many of you reading this are already on the journey. This feature aims to equip you with questions to help discover your unique impact on both a level which impacts the world around your organisation and one which starts from the heart of who you are, flowing out to impact the world around you. The two are incredibly interconnected.
Defining Social Impact
We must first define social impact. There are many different definitions out there and since this wouldn’t be an article without one, here’s my stab at one: Social impact is authentic, starts with purpose first and flows out to impact, shape and influence for the better, all that you do as a business and the people you reach.
Your definition may look different but I’m sure we can all agree on this; for something to have impact, it has to change something as a result of its force. Like a meteorite hitting the earth – it leaves a mark. What mark will you make?
As my definition suggested, there is a difference between incorporating impact into a product and one into the very purpose of your business. Impact can reach much further when it starts with purpose first.Screen Shot 2021-08-17 at 19.55.09-converted
What change do you want to see in the world?
We all like the idea of changing the world but to do that we have to define what we are trying to change. This is the first part of discovering your unique impact. Ask yourself these questions:
- What change do you want to see in the world?
- What would a changed world look like for you?
I recently heard a quote and loved it – we shouldn’t try to be the best in the world, we should be the best for the world. ‘Serving for the benefit, not ours is the key’ (Bill Johnson).
As a starting point, it’s really healthy and helpful to test and uncover your motivations. I often ask myself this question to help me to do this: Would you be ok with not being a part of the change you want to see if it meant it would happen?
Now you have a clear idea on the change you want to see, it’s time to apply it.
The following breaks down impact on a macro and micro level and provides some thought provoking questions to help outwork your unique impact through you and your business and out to the world around you.
Macro Impact: impact which affects the world around your organisation
As founders, we have a responsibility to create impact on a macro level. What’s the one thing your company will champion? Why do you keep going? The above should have given you a good indicator of the type of change you want to see in the world. Given that founders values are incredibly closely connected to their companies values, it’s likely your answer is similar. But it’s worth asking the same question with your founders hat on, on behalf of your company. What changes does (your company) want to see in the world? I often find myself asking, ‘What change does Recognised want to see in the world’?
Here’s a couple of questions to explore further:
- What’s the driving purpose of this organisation?
- How does this impact why we exist?
- Application: How do we respond?
With conviction comes action. Defining your impact and communicating it through both words and importantly, actions is your next step and incredibly as I’ve come to found with Recognised, a life source which keeps you moving forwards. People who find work highly meaningful are 69% less likely to plan on quitting their jobs within the next 6 months, and have job tenures that are 7.4 months longer on average than employees who find work lacking in meaning (Harvard Business Review, 2018). On the hardest days as a founder, when I find myself questioning, is it all worth it, and I feel entirely poured out, the thing that fills me up again, gets me on my feet and pushes me forward is the lived experience of impact I have witnessed over my 2.5 years of running Recognised. Impact such as the woman who had a conversation with one of our ambassadors and said the conversation had saved her life. Impact such as the woman who came across our Motherhood Popon®, felt Recognised for the miscarriages she had experienced and in that moment found powerful recognition and healing, recalling to our team ‘You have no idea how significant today was, it was the symbolic closure I needed, this experience had changed my life’.
Purpose drives fullment, drives resilience.
The accompanying benefits are endless and include, increased productivity, happier employees and increased sales (Better up, 2018). I’ve never seen this more clearly than in running my own organisation. Not one of our 100 brand ambassadors operate on commission, yet they consistently outperform competing brands. Why? Because they deeply believe in the message they are selling and customers believe they believe it and believe in it also. True authenticity cannot be bought. Establish purpose and purpose will establish you.
Micro Impact: impact which affects the world around you
On a personal level, it’s important to establish that we are not our business. As founders, it’s very hard to separate ourselves from our businesses, but we are indeed two separate entities. I recently realised every time someone asked me how I was, I would reply with how Recognised was doing. Can you relate?!
Whilst a realm of separation is important, often your macro reason as a founder stems from a core part of who you are and what you care about. As explored, micro and macro impact go hand in hand and work in relationship with one another. The micro reason likely informed the macro, which continues to influence your micro. An example being:
Change I want to see: 0 plastic in oceans
Macro Impact: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle plastic in organisation.
Micro Impact: Help clean up oceans, limit home use of plastic, carry a keep cup.
The type of questions we’re looking at for micro impact are: What does this mean for me? How do I impact the world? Here’s some further questions to mull over:
- What’s the one thing I can do everyday to make an impact?
- Does my micro impact match up with my macro impact?
Misalignment of question 2 may point to a lack of authenticity, confusion over impact or disconnect from the purpose of your organisation. The closer these two align, the better.
I hope the above has inspired you to continue discovering your unique impact. We all have something unique to bring to the world and combined with our gifts and collaboration we really can bring about the changes we want to see in the world. No matter how big or small your cause, it matters. Your voice matters. Your actions matter. You matter. Because ‘if not you, who? If not now, when?’ (Hillel the Elder).
We are all invited onto the impact train. There are an unlimited amount of seats but there are a finite amount of stops. So get on board the journey and bring your best for the world.
Where to find me
About your author
Anneka Wallington is the founder of social impact brand Recognised which brings together amazing causes with beautiful jewellery to help people feel recognised around the shared experiences in life we face. Anneka believes recognition is a powerful tool we can all harness to help change the world.
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